Senators Prepare For Medical Marijuana Implementation

Dec 13, 2016

Senate Health Policy meeting.
Credit Nick Evans

The Florida Senate is tackling Amendment Two—the medical marijuana constitutional provision that gained approval in November.  As they get to work, lawmakers will need to decide whether to keep existing law in place or start over.

More than 70 percent of voters backed Amendment Two—the strongest stamp of approval yet for a state medical marijuana program at the ballot box.  Tuesday, Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) led a workshop on how to implement the bill. 

“As you can see by today’s agenda, we are jumping right in with perhaps one of our more visible challenges,” Young said at the outset.

After the Legislature approved a limited marijuana program in 2014, the Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use spent two years in a running court battle with nurseries vying for licenses.  The amendment now directs the department to pass rules for ID cards, caregivers, and treatment centers by October of next year.  Office of Compassionate Use Director Chrisitian Bax is confident his team is ready for the challenge. 

“As we go into rulemaking the department is committed to an open transparent process that welcomes the views of every stakeholder in this process,” Bax says.  “And as always we remain committed to moving this process forward as quickly, as safely as possible for Florida’s patients.”

In the statehouse, a coalition of supporters from both sides of the aisle may look to establish a broader framework after seeing their proposals get bogged down in the last two sessions.  Ben Pollara, campaign chair for the amendment says the scope of support should give halfhearted lawmakers the political cover to get involved.

“In 63 of 67 counties, 118 of 120 state house districts, every congressional district and every state senate district, medical marijuana received support in excess of the 60 percent required for passage,” Pollara says.  “This expression of popular will was not regional, or partisan or urban vs. suburban vs. rural.”

“This was a clear mandate of support from voters in every corner of our state.”

The amendment’s language doesn’t require the Legislature do anything, but if lawmakers want to get involved, there are many policy areas where they could.  Just to name a few, they could pass limitations based on residency, routes of administration, or zoning.  But because the initiative changes the constitution—the state’s primary governing document—lawmakers will also have to decide whether to keep existing policy in place or go back to the drawing board.